Today, Kaleev Leetaru published an article in Foreign Policy questioning claims made of "being first" to report Ebola in West Africa. This is a welcomed article because it highlights the vacuum of experienced analysts in many of the organizations whose task it is to protect our country from biological threats. Our team has, over the years, gone to great lengths to highlight operational reality versus hype, where the below are examples:
- Via retrospective review of data collected automatically by a computer.
- Collected data (in a sea of other event reports), discuss the event, but fail to recognize the severity of the signature pattern and report it appropriately to the responsible agency (with proof of the human-led chain of recognition and reporting).
- Report collected automatically by a computer but failed to translate the report and hence the opportunity to assess the information.
Variations of the above factors were present during the warning failure of SARS, MERS, the cholera disaster and the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. And we see a repeat of the claims here with the Ebola disaster.
Despite our team's irritation at seeing peer-reviewed publications and press releases making false or misleading claims about being first to report, allow us to point out the following practical view of the value-add of such programs: